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2018 Fact Sheet: Reducing Technical Barriers to Trade

Made-in-America exports support millions of jobs across our country, and as tariff barriers to industrial and agricultural trade have fallen around the world, some standards-related measures have emerged as a key obstacle to American trade.

Standards-related measures (standards, technical regulations, and conformity assessment procedures) can serve an important function in facilitating international trade to obtain greater access to foreign markets.  Standards-related measures also enable governments to pursue legitimate objectives such as protecting human health and the environment and preventing deceptive practices.  But standards-related measures that are nontransparent, discriminatory, or otherwise unwarranted can act as significant barriers to U.S. exports.

USTR’s efforts to spotlight and address these technical barriers to Made-in-America exports provides crucial reinforcement of USTR’s goal to help businesses of all sizes export more so that they can support more well-paying American jobs.

Because of the accomplishments explained below in addressing those obstacles, USTR has unlocked important export opportunities for American workers and businesses, which will increase our economic growth, promote job creation in the United States, promote reciprocity with our trading partners, strengthen our manufacturing base, and expand our manufacturing, agricultural, and services industry exports.

Indonesia – Issuance of Decree Requiring Regulatory Review:  The United States has been working closely with Indonesia to strengthen its use of good regulatory practices (GRP).  In March 2017, the United States organized a two-day workshop in Jakarta, which had over 100 attendees from central and sub-central government agencies.  In November 2017, Indonesia issued a presidential instruction that required agencies to conduct a regulatory impact analysis and to engage in public consultation on the proposed measure.

South Africa – Conformity Assessment for Information Technology:  South African authorities require letters of authority (LOAs) that demonstrate that IT products imported into that country meet the relevant South African standard.  The National Regulator for Compulsory Specifications, part of the South African Bureau of Standards, had been taking nearly a year to issue the required documentation.  The resulting delays were especially damaging to U.S. producers of IT goods, since the products are frequently updated to incorporate the latest technological developments.  Following direct engagement with South African authorities, the timeframe required to issue the letters has dropped to about 80 days.

Taiwan – Cosmetics:  The United States has worked with Taiwan to address issues related to cosmetics.  In 2017, Taiwan developed a list of banned botanical ingredients.  Certain aspects of the draft list were unclear or inconsistent with international practice.  Following comments from U.S. stakeholders, Taiwan authorities developed a new draft that addressed the concerns raised in U.S. comments.

European Union – Aircraft and Parts:  The World Trade Organization (WTO) Technical Barriers to Trade (TBT) Agreement requires conformity assessment fees to be equitable.  The United States had raised concerns over several years regarding the excessive fees that the European Union (EU) applied to U.S.-produced aircraft and aircraft parts, which were higher than those applied to similar products manufactured in the EU.  In 2017, the United States reached an agreement with the EU that will significantly reduce the fees charged in the EU market.

Standards Alliance Implementation with USAID: Other examples of cooperative efforts to decrease standards-related barriers in 2017 include USTR’s work with USAID to implement the Standards Alliance, a public-private partnership that provides technical assistance to developing countries and regions to help ensure those countries’ standards-related measures do not impose unnecessary obstacles to trade and comply with other important obligations under the WTO TBT Agreement.   In 2017, the Standards Alliance began to expand its assistance to five countries in Africa:  Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana, Mozambique, Senegal, and Zambia.  The programs included workshops to improve the operation of their enquiry points, the government offices that are responsible for notifying proposed measures to the WTO.  This system helps reduce unnecessary obstacles to U.S. trade by ensuring, for example, that proposed regulations are made available for public comment and that potential impacts of proposed measures are analyzed and taken into account.